Six-packs are bullshit. That’s what I tell people in many of my core-focused classes, and I want the rest of you to hear it, too. The best way to strengthen your core probably doesn’t involve most of the motions that you’ve been taught to get rock hard abs.
When you overly strengthen rectus abdominis–the six-pack muscles–you’re not really helping your stability or your low back problems. What you are doing is:
- preventing yourself from breathing fully, which is pretty important for a cardio-heavy sport like roller derby;
- doing wacky things to your posture and possibly making your low back pain worse;
- compressing your internal organs, so they might not do their jobs as well as they should; and
- creating a muscle that limits your range of motion, the same way that your it feels like your hip flexors or hamstrings do!
Got it? Six-packs are bullshit. So what should you be doing instead of focusing on some ridiculous ideal that isn’t actually going to help your game? Try this!
Abs with a Block
You’ll need a yoga block, a thick book, or a rolled up towel. (To roll the towel, fold it in thirds lengthwise, and then roll up from one of the short ends. Secure it with a rubber band if you’d like.)
Lie on your back with the soles of your feet on the floor, place the block/book/towel in between your thighs, as close to your pelvis as you can get it. Seriously, don’t be afraid to get it right up in there against your pubic bone.
Bring your hands behind your head and interlace your fingers, like you’re getting ready to do a crunch. Don’t lift your head and hands off the floor yet, though! In fact, let your head rest in your hands so that your neck muscles are relaxed.
Inhale fully–without lifting your head and arms! Hold your breath and squeeze your block/towel. Press your mid and low back firmly agains the floor.
Exhale and lift both shoulder blades up off the floor. Pull your low belly–the spot right below your belly button–down.
Inhale to lower halfway down, and repeat 5-10 times.
As you get stronger, you can work this with your knees bent and shins parallel to the floor. Make sure you can keep your lower back pressed against the floor even if you’re lifting your legs!
Or you might get a little more ambitious and do this with legs straight. Reach the balls of your feet toward the ceiling!
Note: if you’ve got a grouchy low back, stick to doing this with your feet on the floor. You could also try pressing your feet against a wall.
No matter which one you choose, the steps are:
- Hold your breath and: squeeze your block/book/towel, press lower back toward floor.
- Exhale and lift shoulder blades off the floor (if you can), pull low belly down.
As you start using your deep abdominals and inner thighs, you’ll find that your stability on the track will improve!